The Xbox One Has Lost Its Identity

One of the more interesting developments as E3 2014 approaches has been some of the fairly major news that has broken in the weeks before the industry’s biggest event. With the formal announcement of games like Halo 5: Guardians, Far Cry 4 and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, the reveal of gameplay footage for Sunset Overdrive, and info leaks which revealed Battlefield: Hardline, we’ve had tons of news in this past month that one would typically expect to be saved for big press conference reveals. However, all these reveals and leaks were absolutely dwarfed by the bombshell Microsoft unleashed, revealing that the Xbox One will be undergoing some serious changes very soon.


By now we are all very aware of what exactly these changes are, and it’s hard to really find a negative in them. Microsoft addressed many of the major issues I and many others had with the Xbox One with the infamous 180 prior to the launch of the system, but this most recent policy reversal has pretty much cleaned up all the lingering issues most people had with the system. The Kinect has been removed, cutting $100 from the price to bring it in line the PS4, the ridiculous paywall on netflix and other non-game services is gone, and the laughable Games With Gold has been retooled to be more like Playstation Plus, now including more current and highly regarded games.

As someone that went with an Xbox 360 day one last generation but has thus far passed on the Xbox One in favor of a Playstation 4, these changes have brought the system to a place where there is really no longer anything about it that puts me off getting one. Pretty much every problem I’ve had with the system since it was first announced has been fixed, but in doing so the console’s identity has been slowly erased. For all the problems the Xbox One had as originally intended, and there were many, at the very least the system had clear ambitions and plenty of defining characteristics. Sure, much of its identity was wrapped up in privacy concerns, issues of consumer rights, and a higher price tag, but there was no denying the Xbox One was trying to offer something unique. To be clear, I absolutely think the Xbox One is better off without those original restrictions, and I would never buy one if they had remained in place, but I can’t shake the feeling that the Xbox One is a much more boring console now than it was before.


When these two consoles were first announced, the PlayStation 4 was aiming to be the pure games console with superior horsepower and a focus on games over secondary features. The Xbox One was the all-in-on media center, a device that brought voice control into your living room and tied into everything that happened on the TV, not just games. Pretty much all the changes that the Xbox One has undergone in the time since has made it more like the PS4, which certainly makes it a more appealing games machine, but it’s still not as appealing as the PS4.

Without any of the Kinect functionality, the Xbox One is basically a less powerful PS4. The debate about the horsepower race between these two consoles had been decided the second the specs were unveiled, but in the time since that fact has only been hammered home even more by the non stop flood of multiplatform games that run better and look better on the Playstation 4. Of course, a SKU with the kinect still exists, but there’s no denying the implementation and support for the device will taper off now that not every console has one bundled in.


With Microsoft pretty much abandoning the Kinect as the primary selling point for the system, the services and features being pretty much identical to the PS4, and the horsepower race well and truly lost, the last hope for the Xbox One is in exclusive software, and this is where it may actually have a chance. The back half of last generation was dominated by Sony in terms of exclusives, but things may be changing. Last generation Microsoft seemed content to ride a handful of core franchises, mainly Halo, Gears of War, Fable, and Forza, while Sony’s exclusive offering was much more diverse and expansive. However, in the early goings of this generation Microsoft has a more promising slate of announced exclusives.

The Order: 1886 is the only major PS4 exclusives on the horizon for the near future, while Xbox One owners have games like Quantum Break, Sunset Overdrive, Halo 5, and Gears of War to look forward to. Obviously it’s still very early, and things may change very shortly depending on how E3 turns out for both these companies, but the early signs are good for Microsoft. However, even if the Xbox One does end up with a consistently better exclusive library (which is by no means guaranteed), there is no getting around the struggles multiplatform games have had. The performance gap with multiplaform games is certainly a major concern going forward, and if it isn’t fixed (if it even can be), we are going to be bombarded with frame rate and resolution debates every time a new multiplatform game comes out, which I am certainly not looking forward to.


What it comes down to is the same considerations I’ve taken with a potential Xbox One purchase since it first launched. When it has games I want to play I will get one, but as it stands now, exclusives are the only thing that will get me to take the plunge. In the past, the price, Kinect and restrictive features were just another barrier to a potential purchase, but there was always the chance the Kinect and other features would reveal some hidden genius and make the Xbox One a must-have. With all that off the table, the Xbox One is undoubtedly a better and more appealing system, but it will forever be a much less interesting one from here on out.